Coming Soon – to an Amazon Near You

After to listening to a couple of podcasts that felt as if they were intended just for me, I dusted off a manuscript I had started years ago. I was startled to realize it was already 54k words strong and I placed it on the top of my project pile.

The book’s working title is Quit Your Job, Change Your Life: 40 Life-Altering Strategies for the Disaffected. I’ve included the Introduction below.

I’m editing and finishing some of the parts of the book now and hope to have it ready in a few months time.

I welcome your comments and thoughts…

Introduction

“I went into the woods to live deliberately. To front the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach. And not, when I came to die, discover I had never lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

Each day we are faced with decisions, whether we realize it or not. Do we take the easy road, the one that is familiar and expected? Or do we veer off into the woods, create our own trail, and slog our way through the mud to a destiny of our own making?

In 2004 I started my first blog titled What the Hell Am I Doing Here?! (and Who the Hell Are You?). My weekdays were filled with sitting in a gray cubicle staring at the walls, bored to tears as I shuffled paperwork and tried to look busy. My job was easy, way too easy, and it paid me more money than I had ever earned before.

In terms of the easy road, it would have been far simpler to stay there. In many ways it was seductive – left to my own devices for hours on end I did little work and a great deal of writing, web surfing, and even my fair share of soul-searching. If money and security were all that mattered I would probably still be there.

I had lost my way. For years I had operated under the belief that if I worked hard enough, earned the right certifications and climbed the corporate ladder that all things would work out. I would find the perfect job, make a respectable amount of money, and have the things in life I was told were important. When life didn’t turn out quite as I had expected, I found myself disillusioned and depressed. I found myself far more cynical and selfish than I was comfortable with. I began to examine my life and find it wanting.

The soul-searching hit high overdrive after my father pointed me towards a writer by the name of Claire Wolfe. I read her essay Movin’ To Hardyville in which she wrote:

“You want to live in Hardyville? I’ll tell you the secret, then, that Hardyville is as real as it is imaginary…

How do you get there? If you can’t find Lonelyheart Pass, you can start in the direction of Hardyville by thinking about the way you’re living now. Are you racing like a little maze-rat, just to keep yourself in fancy toys? … Are you living vicariously, via television? Do you choose to spend your days in a little gray cube? Is your mind in a little gray cube? ……

Have you put your kids in day care, soccer and gymnastics, more than in your life? Do you hate your life, but somehow never manage to take real steps to fix it? Are you using people — or being used by them — instead of having honest relationships? When it comes right down to it, do you choose convenience over independence? Do you choose the status quo over the uncertainties of happiness? Do your deeds fail to match your words, your hopes and your ideals?

Then you’re not on the road to Hardyville. If you want to be on the road to Hardyville…turn around.”

There are times in your life when you experience something that speaks to you on the deepest level of your consciousness. It moves you, challenges you and then tugs at your sleeve insistently in the days and weeks that follow. It is that insistent voice that demands that you become more than you currently are.

When I read those words my life was irrevocably changed – they set into motion feelings I could no longer deny – that my life was not where it should be –it wasn’t fulfilling or complete and I was not the person I wanted to be.

I read the questions in Claire’s essay and found myself answering yes far too often for my comfort. I began to dream very vivid dreams at night. I will not bore you with the details of those dreams; suffice it to say that I came to believe they were an unconscious expression of my longing for change.

I daydreamed as well. I dreamed of a life far different from the one I currently had – one that had a purpose, one that was on my terms and under my direction. I was tired of working in offices shuffling mounds of paperwork back and forth and I was even more fed up with the corporate BS and cliques of gossiping co-workers I saw each day.

When my supervisor left for another department she said to me in parting, “Christine, you have got to learn to just not say anything.” It was well-intentioned advice, thoughtful even, and if I had been realistic I would have taken it. But realism meant giving up, accepting my fate, and I wasn’t ready to do that. For me, that would have been akin to dying.

I began to examine how I currently lived and then decided how I wanted to live. I was only thirty-four, but I had grown enough to realize how precious each of the remaining years of my life had become to me – I didn’t want to waste them on being unhappy anymore.

I was ready to stop and to turn around and start heading back down that long road towards Hardyville. And slowly, agonizingly slow at times, my life began to change.

I pulled my daughter out of the public school that she was so miserable in and began to homeschool her. She was in high school by this time and even though I was working full time, I could still call her and send her assignments via email. A few hiccups along the way and we settled into a good routine.

I brainstormed constantly about ways to make money while doing things that interested me. I also researched different career paths and evaluated the pros and cons of each one. I signed up for writing classes through my local community education department and pulled out several crafts projects I had begun and then abandoned over the years.

I taught myself how to re-upholster furniture, researched my different options in opening up an online business, and wrote constantly in blogs and my hardcover journals.

It was around this time that my then-teenage daughter commented, “Mom, every time I think about how I don’t have enough time to do my writing, the housework, and find a job…I see how busy you are. It makes me feel like I’m not doing anything.” I was taken by surprise by her comment, but I was enjoying myself and really getting a kick out of all the different things I was learning and achieving.

I said to her, “Honey when you find something that gets you interested and excited, I hope you will move heaven and earth to make it happen because life is way too short to not reach for your dreams.”

After nearly two years of this brainstorming, blogging, and skill-building I found myself one morning in the company conference room – stuck in another meeting that I found tedious and pointless. As if all of the walls had closed in at once, I finally realized I couldn’t take it one minute longer. I stood up in front of everyone and ignoring their shocked stares announced that I was quitting and then I walked out of the room.

I didn’t make it out of the office before I panicked. What had I done? Could I take it back? That day and the week that followed were difficult. I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have a game plan in place, and I was terrified. What in the world was I going to do?

My therapist told me that I was being very self-destructive. I heard him out, even went to a few more sessions before I fired him. He might have had a point (well of course he did – it was right on the top of his head!), but in the years that have followed I have come to believe that quitting that comfortable job with its dull gray cubicle walls and far duller days within was the best thing I ever did for myself.

I look back now and prefer to call it self-transformational rather than self-destructive. Transformation can appear destructive at times. Just think of the conversion from caterpillar to butterfly, what is left of the creature that was when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis? The old must die to give way to the new.

That was the day that my life really began – and all the questions and stress and penniless months that followed were worth every moment of the life that I lead now. I write this now, in 2018, and I am quietly edging towards my 50th birthday. My eldest is grown and gone, and I have spent the past thirteen years crafting a life that works for me. I’ll tell you about more later, about mid-point in this book. Let’s just say that, although I knew what I wanted, it has taken a while to figure out how to get to that point, and there have been plenty of life lessons.

I am not suggesting that you quit your job – at least not yet anyway! What I am suggesting is that you need to grab a notebook full of empty pages, find a quiet place and:

  • Start thinking about the life you are leading and how different it is from where you really want to be
  • Brainstorm – what makes you happy? What gets you up in the morning?
  • Read this book and begin to implement the suggestions and exercises in it
  • Set the wheels in motion; take small steps, which grow bigger with each week or month that passes.

Eventually, your feet will stand you up and walk you out of that cubicle (or into one) and into a different world – one of your choosing.

Changing your life is not just about quitting your job, changing to a different career or starting your own business – although a good deal of this book may seem to focus on that. Changing your life is about self-examination and introspection. It is about finding the answers to what makes you happy and then repositioning your life and your focus to pursue that goal with every fiber of your being.

Make the conscious choice to change your life and use some or all of the techniques and exercises suggested in this book to re-shape it into one that is worth living.

Life is far too short to be lost or unhappy –don’t you think it’s time for a change?!

The Bodies Must Be Piling Up

I think that the coroner’s office is a pretty busy place. I tried calling them on Tuesday and the woman who answered the phone told me she would have to take a message because the phone was ringing off the hook. I tried to follow up by sending an email today. By the end of the day, still no love.

The bodies must be piling up!

Meanwhile, since I’m at a standstill on Gliese 581…I could still work on it, but I really want to get that specific chapter finished and it’s undone state is putting me off from wanting to work on it at all…I picked up my Start Your Own Housecleaning Biz book and got to work.

Cleaning a house today with my eldest made me think of it. I had plotted out an outline for it a while back (read that, YEARS back) and just hadn’t gotten around to writing anything out yet.

I could write this book in my sleep I know the material I am writing about so well!

I typed up the Introduction and moved into Getting Started. That garnered me over 3,000 words in short order. Then I went ahead and popped in the contents of a handout I have on making your own non-toxic cleaning products and that popped it up to over 4,600 words for today.

I don’t hold myself to the same word count requirements that I do for fiction. Whereas my personal preference is to write at least 80,000 in a fiction book, when it comes to non-fiction I write whatever is necessary to convey the basics. I think my first book Get Organized, Stay Organized was probably around 40,000 words. The War on Drugs: An Old Wives’ Tale was probably around 60,000 words.

I guess with non-fiction it becomes more of a “just the facts” and with fiction I want something for my readers to chew on for a while.

Now wouldn’t it be a hoot if I actually DID manage to get both books written and published this year?!




Making Me Think Here …

My second appointment of the day yesterday was with M.P. from Land Bank. Land Bank isn’t actually a BANK, that’s just the title of the entity that manages all of these abandoned/tax seized properties in Kansas City.

He had gamely accepted my request to interview him for the book I’m writing on buying a house (The Cottage that I go on and on about) from Land Bank for $25.

I’m still fussing over the title, which is problematic. In part, because it is specifically geared toward purchasing a house from Kansas City Land Bank, which is different from other land banks in the country and talks specifically about the programs available to Kansas City residents.

I could tell he is a little hesitant – and he visibly winced over the working title “I Bought a House for $25 (and so can you)” – because, as he pointed out, the situation is different for each property and each applicant.

My point was, if they never pick up the book, which will have some incredibly good resources, how will they learn some of the more important features about these programs that are available?

We talked for nearly two hours. I really like the guy, M.P. is funny, thoughtful, and smart. I left the meeting thinking really hard about how I can produce a book that is responsible, educational, and empowering.

I’m So Excited

And I just can’t hide it. I’m about to lose…

Stop right there! You are NOT going to start quoting song lyrics from the 70s!

Oh yeah, sorry about that. I’m not sure what came over me.

So anyway, after a long silence, I have news. The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale may be far bigger than I thought.

At least three people have read it, and all have had very positive things to say – one of them was rather vehement that I at least attempt to get this published through a traditional agent and publisher.

I had become sure that no one, no one, would want to read my book. I had dismissed it as self-indulgent memoir, but after getting feedback from others I am looking at the manuscript in a new light.

The vehement reader was my eldest, Danielle. She was quite insistent that I make some corrections, tighten up the research, and immediately begin searching for an agent. She was so insistent, that I offered her a co-authorship on the project. She accepted and we began the first emails/calls back and forth discussing our plan of attack.

  1. Settle on any additional add-ons to the book. Are there any additional chapters needed, any major shifting of discussion or emphasis?
  2. Research and quotes done correctly – yeah, I’ll admit it, I was lazy and used Wikipedia a “couple” of times!
  3. Get together a query letter and an outline of the book – NOW – and start shopping for an agent.

In the non-fiction world you can actually shop out a book before having even written a word. However, that is difficult if you are not an established author, so we need to have as much of the manuscript done, and a clear and concise outline in place, and one hell of a query letter – to be truly effective.

This is time sensitive after all. More and more states are moving towards legalization, the controversy and disparity between what the public demands and the lawmakers decree are growing larger by the moment.

I want this book to reach people who are on the fence. Who see nothing but the path to hellish addiction in any drug use and change their minds.

Today I mentioned my manuscript to an elderly patron of the library I know. She brings her granddaughter to story time each Tuesday. I told her, “The book is about our experiences in the drug war – when my husband was caught growing marijuana.”

“Good,” she said, “I’m glad they caught him.”

She’s a kind woman, and I was rather surprised by her statement, “Why do you think it is good?” I asked.

“Well, using marijuana leads to other more dangerous drugs.” She replied.

“My husband smoked pot for more than 20 years and he’s never once turned to other drugs.” I pointed out.

“Well, maybe not him, but most do.” She protested, “At least that’s what they say.”

Every wonder about that mysterious they? I’ve got a couple of books that reveal who they are, and they are inevitably lying.

“There are research studies, most of them done in other countries since it is an illegal substance here, that discuss that very fallacy.” I said.

My calm self-assured demeanor seemed to encourage her to ask more questions. She asked why people smoked it and what did it do? She also asked about how my husband had handled withdrawal when he stopped smoking.

I explained the feelings of relaxation, euphoria and increase of appetite. “That’s why it is recommended for cancer patients – it usually helps with pain control and the nausea from chemo.”

This struck a nerve with her. She had apparently gone through being treated for cancer and had chemo treatments which had robbed of her of her appetite. “The only thing I could bear to eat were Blizzards from Dairy Queen,” she said ruefully, “my husband would go and get six or seven of them and line them up in the freezer for me. For weeks that is all I could eat.”

We laughed and I told her that Dave had never experienced withdrawal symptoms when he stopped smoking.

I doubt I completely changed her mind, but I did bring up the ridiculous example of how we are no longer able to grow hemp in this country, although our Constitution was written on hemp. Hemp was a “must grow” crop that American colonists and later the citizens of the Early Republic era were required to grow.

In the end, I left the discussion feeling as if I may have changed her mind on several things. Or at the very least, I have given her something to think about. After hearing feedback from the rough draft readers, I have become convinced that this book has merit in a bigger audience than I might reach via self-publishing.

So here we go, on the roller coaster, and I’m excited at the idea that I’m not alone in this, but have a capable and talented young woman working beside me.

With all of that said, I’m off to work on some research – I’m reading a book by Judge Andrew Napolitano, Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History.

Meanwhile, Dee is reading Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure.

On we go!

An Old Wives Tale

I woke up this morning and realized, “It’s time.”

It has been nearly a year and a half now and it is time to share a story. It is my story, one that I, and our small family endured for over two years. Every day for those two years I kept daily notes, jotted down conversations, and talked a lot about the color of the day.

I realized that, although War’s End sequel is important, there is this story that needs to be told first. So I’ve jumped in with both feet. By the end of June, I will be announcing the publication of The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale.

Details will follow soon.

 

Annual Family Newsletter – Done!

He he, I’m writing the annual family newsletter.

It’s been a couple of years – I just got busy and never got around to it. But plenty of family members have commented that they like receiving it, so I’m back on top of it this year.

I titled it “Shuck House” – the byline reads, “It’s odd, quirky and it’s all things Shuck”

Dave just has no sense of humor about his last name. I have wanted to name the newsletter, “Aw, Shuck It” or “Go Shuck Yourself” and he just looks at me with this pained expression.

Growing up with the last name of Sandfort – the best that people could do was tease me and say, “Oh, are you related to Sanford & Son?”

If you didn’t grow up in the 70s or earlier that is a reference to an old tv show. In any case, I didn’t have a name that could be used inventively by other children to torment me – so I’m pretty much immune to such things.

….update…

He’s read it, and only had one change. A typo, if you can believe that. So I’ve apparently fallen within the reasonable confines of proper Shuck name etiquette. Although really, “Go Shuck Yourself – the Shuck Family Newsletter” has such a cool ‘in your face’ kind of vibe. [sigh]

I’ll probably post it here eventually.

Welcome to My Website!

The purpose of this website and blog is to promote my writing – which you can currently find links to on the right (or here in this post).

Interested in reading my blogs? I have two public ones…

The Deadly Nightshade – a gardening, down-to-earth, get your sustainability movement on, grass roots, eco-friendly, et cetera.

The Homeschool Advocate – where I discuss all things parenting, homeschool, and learning-oriented

About a year ago, I started a blog titled “The Chronicles of Liv Rowan” which I have copied over to here, more content will follow.

I currently have two books in print and available for download. Those are:

Get Organized Stay Organized – a book that will get your home and paperwork organized and under control in just a few easy steps. Available as a trade paperback.

War’s End – A gritty story of survival in the face of insurmountable odds. Is it fiction? Or a forewarning of a all-too-possible future? Available in trade paperback or as a digital download.

Most of my posts here will be short and to the point (I hope). Writing about my writing seems…redundant.

That said, I recognize that there are two great reasons to write this blog:

  1. To promote my work. I can tell you to buy the books until I’m blue in the face, but maybe if you read my writing, you will be intrigued enough to want to find out just what these books have to offer.
  2. To encourage a better understanding – of me, of writing in general, and of the motivations we are all driven by – as different as they may be.

I’ve always been curious about others. Why do they do what they do? What were they thinking when they said what they said? And if you are curious too, then keep reading. Maybe we will entertain each other.